Content Can Be an eLearning Disaster Too

content is king and design is queen to prevent elearning disasterDesign is queen but content is king. You can do all the right things in your course design and layout. Solid structure. Beautiful interface. But if you make one or more of these content mistakes you could be heading for an eLearning disaster.

In Part 1 we talked about design element mistakes that can make your eLearning, shall we say, less than stellar. In this part we will talk about content mistakes that get in the way of creating a great course.

Two things to emphasize before we go on:

  1. If you find that you have been guilty of any of these things, don’t worry. First, they are not hard and fast rules. There are situations where committing one of these offenses IS the best choice to make for a particular course. However, they shouldn’t be the norm.
  2. The narrative will be a rather tongue-in-cheek. If facetiousness is not your game, we include straight reality as well.

Content Mistakes that Help You Create an eLearning Disaster

Word for Word Text that Matches Narrative

It’s very important that the learner be able to “read along” with the narrator on every screen. It’s not enough to hear it, they have to see it too! Include the exact same text on screen and in the narration for best results!


This was actually once the standard. However, part of the reason for it was that audio devices were not as proliferate as they are now and not as high in quality. That’s no longer true. speakers and headphones are everywhere. Research in 2003 and again in 2007 found that people learned better from audio alone or text alone rather than identical audio and text together.

Nothing But Text

Audio is way too expensive to make. Don’t waste your time and money! Just put all the text on screen and let them read it. It’s cheap and effective!


Yes, the research showed that just text (or just audio) was more effective than identical text and audio together.  However, another study showed that people who experienced eLearning with primarily audio or audio only scored higher on assessments than those with just text.

If you do include text, do not put entire paragraphs of text on the screen. Usability studies have shown that no one will read it. Because we don’t read online, we scan. And we scan typically in an F-shaped pattern. So putting whole paragraphs in is a waste of valuable screen space.

Depend Entirely on Bullet Points

If  you aren’t putting in the entire paragraph of text then just put in bullet points. You know, just like you would with PowerPoint. Make everything a bulleted list.


Lists are great for things that need listing. But highlight points related to a topic does not always require a list. Look for other creative ways to display text information on screen. Simply including the text in some graphics changes things up enough to keep it engaging.

Using Graphics that are Unrelated to Content

rick roll. an elearning disaster through the misuse of graphics.
Using graphics unrelated to your content leads to an eLearning disaster.

You gotta have graphics! This is multimedia learning, right? Put some pretty pictures or funny memes in there and everything will be just dandy!


Understand that eLearning IS a visual medium. So it follows that graphic content is important. Therefore, why waste it by inserting images into the course just because you have to have something there? A rule of thumb to apply is

if it doesn’t enhance the learning experience then it is a distraction

Besides, graphics don’t have to be limited to just images you grab off a stock photo website. Or even photos you capture yourself. There are other types of graphic content, such as instructional graphics, illustrations, diagrams, figures, and today’s ever popular infographics. When you expand the options, it becomes easier to select graphics that suit the purpose and support the lesson. There’s an excellent (but long) explanation of this in an issue of Learning Solutions Magazine.

Superfluous Animations

People like animations! Make sure you include lots of animations, especially with lots of bells and whistles. And little cute cartoon characters.


Following the rule above, any animation that does not serve a specific purpose doesn’t belong on screen. And simply to entertain is not a purpose.

That said, animations can serve a distinct purpose. Use it to bring life to a process or technique. To illustrate a point. Or simply to draw the learner’s attention to something on screen. Eyes follow motion naturally so if an animation moves towards a particular point on screen, so will the learner’s attention and focus.

Cheap Audio Narrative

If we have to include audio, let’s get it over with. Plug in that laptop microphone. Most applications let you record audio directly. Bill has a nice voice. Let him do it.


announcer with microphone and pop screen.Let’s think about this a moment. If you are in an audience and have to listen to someone speak how annoying is it when the P.A. system keeps crackling and popping and distorting their voice? How distracting is it when you have trouble understanding the person because they are not very skilled at speaking?

Good audio enhances the learning experience. People connect with a voice and will be better engaged. Bad audio is a distraction. Learners will tend to focus more on what’s wrong than what they are saying.

You need a narrator who at a minimum can speak clearly. They should be able to pronounce words properly, using voice tone and inflection to add emphasis where needed. Accents do not matter as much as clarity.

Ideally, hiring a professional voice-over artist may be your best option. They have the equipment to record excellent quality audio and will do all the editing and prep work needed. Give them a script and they will deliver you ready to insert audio.

If budget or other constraints lead you to create your own audio there are still things you can do to create good audio narrative. Invest in a good quality microphone and software. Select an area to record that is separated from office noise. Use soundproofing if you can. Don’t just grab whoever is available, audition several voices. Have a focus group tell you which ones they like and respond to. If you have employees in Toastmasters, they may be a good choice.

As you can see from this list of items, it’s really easy to create an eLearning disaster. Yet with just a little bit more effort, and not necessarily much more expense, you can create quality eLearning that is engaging, effective, and provides a return on investment.


Still need help navigating the eLearning world? Let the experts at JCA Solutions help. Contact us today.


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